*Disclaimer – This may be a sensitive article for some, therefore, please proceed with caution. This article has been developed for the loved ones of those who have lost loved ones to mental health.**
Mental health can be a very difficult illness to live with, especially if individuals do not have the appropriate frame of support or any access to it. Even then, sometimes it can feel like they are completely alone and that no-one cares, even if others explicitly state that they do care. Mental health has the power to make it feel like you are alone and that you are a burden to people. It can get so bad that those with the mental health conditions believe it to the point that they withdraw themselves from others, self-harm, cry out for help, and ultimately, commit suicide. When this happens, remember that it is not your fault.
Mental health is one of the leading causes of suicide, worldwide. It has the power to destroy someone’s well-being, as well as debilitate and cripple their mentality to the point that those suffering from it no longer want to be alive.
Even though supporting someone with mental health can be emotionally draining, we do whatever we can to support individuals with the conditions and show them that they are worth saving. Support is often given in the way of regular comfort talks, fighting for professional help, recommending places to seek help, staying up all night to be with that person, offering your company and a shoulder to cry on, stopping them from doing anything to harm themselves by removing sharp objects, telling them that the world would be a poorer place without them in it, and more.
However sometimes, this is not enough and the individual with the mental health condition commits suicide. There are many reasons why they may have done this, however, what is important is that no matter how much time you put in to help them… their death is not your fault. As harsh as it may sound, if they were set on doing it, then it would have been out of your control. You cannot control the uncontrollable and unfortunately, this is one of those moments.
There is very often a large void left with those who have lost loved ones to suicide and with that, a range of challenges present themselves. These people are left with a hole in their hearts and an overwhelming feeling of sadness as well as possible self-blame. There are things that you should know if your loved ones commit suicide, which have been further explained below.
It Is Not Your Fault!
This is a very big one. What you need to understand is no matter how it happened, the suicide is not your fault. You did not force the person to commit suicide. You supported them as best as you could to get them the help they needed and to be the person that they would come to when they were at a really low point. Even though it would have been difficult, your loved one could have made a different choice, but they did not. In the end, your loved one chose to end their pain in the way that they saw best, suicide. Only that person took their life, you did not take it from them.
The suicide was about that person, not you. Therefore, the suicide is not your fault and you are not to blame.
You Will Feel Angry and Hurt By This Loss:
When someone close to you dies you feel at a loss and you mourn that loss, but mourning a loss due to suicide is a lot more complicated due to the contradictory feelings that make themselves visible. You feel guilty because you did not do more to help. You feel hurt because that person left you despite all the time you put in to help them. You feel angry because that person will not be there for you in the future. Most of all, you feel a profound amount of sadness because that person is no longer a part of your world and the world in general.
The feelings pile up on each other until you are standing on a hill of confusion with no visible way down. This is normal. The horrible feelings you have are normal. Whether you are hurt, angry, at a loss, guilty or sad; they are all normal. No matter what you are feeling, it is normal. It will hurt and it will be confusing but you will be able to work through it. Loved ones will also support and see you through this troubling time.
Understanding Why They Did It Will Be Difficult:
Predominantly, you are not going to be able to understand what drove a person to commit suicide. You will not understand why they did not call a helpline or reach out to loved ones. Ir will be very difficult to understand why this person chose to end their life. The most clear reason that a lot of people do end their life is to end the pain they are experiencing, but that is all we could ever know.
Understanding their suicide is not possible. Even if you were the one they talked with the most, you still will not understand all the deep questions that later arise. Sometimes, we need to learn that there are no answer, only painful questions.
Do Not Attempt To Search For Logic Behind A Suicide:
As a feeling, thinking and rational human being, you will attempt to look for logic behind the suicide. You will not find it. The suicide was not a rational or logical choice. Acting on suicide only makes sense in the mind of someone who is in severe pain that most would almost find unfathomable. The logic exists in the illness and of you do not suffer with mental health, then the likelihood of you seeing any logic is very small.
Blaming Yourself Is Natural:
When something tragic takes place, we want to believe that we could have prevented it. The instinct does not pair well with wondering why they did it. It is easy to imagine ‘what if‘ scenarios. The problem with this is that it only makes us feel worse. While feelings of guilt are normal, be aware that ultimately, the choice was theirs, therefore, please do not punish or feel the need to beat yourself up.
It can be so difficult to understand why they committed suicide and blaming yourself almost comes with ease. Unfortunately, you cannot always get the answers you seek, but it is still alright to ask.
Processing The Emotions of a Suicide:
The emotions from this loss will be unbearably painful and they will swallow you whole, however, over time, they will eventually fade. The anguish that you feel will decrease and the outrage that you feel with quell. Similar to a wound, it will heal. Grief often feels like the end of the world, but it never really is. It is just a temporary interruption of your world that is painful, horrible, angry and quite big at the time. It will not last forever.
Remember To Take Care of Yourself:
While you are working through all of these painful emotions tied to suicide, remember this; take care of your mental well-being. Going through something this difficult can make you feel emotionally and physically vulnerable. Therefore, it is important for your health that you meet the basic requirements of eating, sleeping, drinking and getting fresh air every now and again. It can be really hard to socialise with others in times like this, however sometimes, company is exactly what you need instead of being alone with your thoughts. It prevents you from overthinking and questioning whether you could have done more.
You need to focus on those basic requirements because they are going to make you stronger when the pain of suicide leaves in its wake.
Unfortunately, there is not a specific method for overcoming grief. We all have our own ways of dealing with loss and suicide is no different. However, there is no shortage of help or suggestions available that can get you through this difficult time. See strategies as below:
1) Remember To Stay In Contact With Loved Ones:
It can be very tempting to isolate and withdraw yourself during the grieving process, and it is okay to make time for yourself. However, try to maintain regular contact with loved ones, whether that is with friends or members of your family. According to the Mayo Clinic (2017), isolation and negative emotions can be catalysts for depression, which can be difficult to escape. Additionally, other loved ones may be just as affected by the loss as you are, so holding onto each other during this hard time is considered to be more therapeutic than running away from the feelings.
2) Avoid Making Major Decisions Alone:
When we are unable to alter something that hurt us, we often try to change things we can control to compensate. Quitting your job, beginning or ending a relationship, or even moving into a new home are all big decisions. You may be tempted to leave the area that reminds you of your loved one, or to quit your job to remove stress.
You should try to avoid making big decisions like this when grieving. Accept that your judgement would not be 100% and try to hold off for a while. If you need to make a major decision then consult trusted friends to help you before you see through to the commitment. Ideally, speak to someone who is not similarly affected or connected to the tragedy if possible. A friend from a different social circle or even a co-worker can help in these situations.
3) Make Time For Yourself:
Unfortunately, modern-day society does not allow a lot of time or space for grieving. While some jobs or educational institutions may give you a grace period for a few days, being out of commission for too long can lead to tangible consequences.
To compensate for this, you need to dedicate time for yourself. If you have paid time off work with your job, consider setting aside a portion of it for a break. If you are unable to take time off, then schedule some time either after work or over the weekends to simply be on your own. You can write, play games, go driving, sit on the beach and do whatever it is that helps you to relax and process your feelings.
Just be sure you set it aside. Being constantly busy with others’ expectations can cause you to avoid the grieving process all together, which is the last thing you need.
4) Please Consider Seeking Out Professional Help:
There is no shame whatsoever in seeking help. Professional therapy has shed its stigma over the years, but many people still feel as though seeing a therapist means that there is something ‘wrong with me.’ In a case, there is. In the same way that being exposed to bacteria and germs can make your body sick. The same applied here; being exposed to tragedy can make your mind ill. The brain is an organ too and it needs looking after. Whatever anyone may say, you are not broken.
Everyone needs support from time to time, and seeking help from an experiences professional is a perfectly natural step that we take in every other area of life. In terms of finding a mental health professional, it can help to find therapist that you can relate to on a personal level. It is important that you find a therapist that works for you, so do not be afraid to ask to talk to someone else if you are feeling uncomfortable. Also, there may be situations where one therapist does not really help, that does not mean that no-one can. All you have to do is look around a little it and loved ones are always providing recommendations.
Picture by: The Word Daily (2017).
Losing a loved one does not mean your life is over, but it does mean that things will be different. Seeking help and support can help you feel better. With time, you can find support that will help you to move forward with life, whilst also cherishing your loved one’s memory.
Thank you for reading.
Donnelly, M. (2016). Please Don’t Blame Yourself For The Loss of A Loved One. Thought Catalog [online]. Available from: https://thoughtcatalog.com/marisa-donnelly/2016/06/please-dont-blame-yourself-for-the-loss-of-a-loved-one/ [Accessed: 11.11.2017].
Ravenscraft, E. (2014). How to Cope When a Loved One Commits Suicide. Lifehacker [online]. Available from: https://lifehacker.com/how-to-cope-when-a-loved-one-commits-suicide-1663171935 [Accessed: 11.11.2017].
Tracy, N. (2014). What You Need to Know When Your Loved One Commits Suicide. Bipolar Blog [online]. Available from: https://natashatracy.com/mental-illness-issues/suicide/loved-commits-suicide/ [Accessed: 11.11.2017].